REVIEW: “SISTERS” (2015) Universal Pictures

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We’ve all heard the saying “Sisters from another mother”. Well that’s pretty much how Kate Ellis (Tina Fey) & Maura Ellis (Amy Poehler) are here as they look nothing alike and yes, they play/are sisters in this funny at times, throwback to our party days, comedy. Here the parents are Deanna, the fantastic Dianne Wiest and the truly who-knew-he-could-be-funny James Brolin is dad Bucky.

In case I didn’t mention it .. the sister’s are polar opposites. Since her divorce two years ago the responsible straight arrow, Maura, who is beyond do-gooder even in her job as a nurse. On the other hand we have the irresponsible, unable to hold a job or keep a place to live, mess up Kate. She is game for anything yet so childish that her daughter Haley (Madison Davenport), although still a teenager herself, seems to act much more mature than her own mother. But what the two sisters share in is going into complete and utter shock, to put it lightly, when going to visit their parents home they see a “SOLD” sign at the family house in Orlando. Seemingly by not informing or hinting at the fact they have sold it, their parents ask them now to clean out their former childhood rooms before the new owners come in.
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Reluctantly the sister dig through all their old stuff and while the two reminisce over their youth, Kate gets the idea to throw an for old times sake – “Ellis Island” –  one last party as they once were called and with that, one last party IS going down at the parent’s house.

The film definitely hits it’s high notes here as the invitations go out to all their former classmates – including as the scene stealer once again here as in Trainwreck, the how shall we say – robust – drug dealer Pazuzu (John Cena), to whom Kate has got her eye set on in some truly hilarious moments. As for Maura, well she’s got the charming nice guy love interest James (Ike Barinholtz), and they get themselves in the big ‘this-is-so-wrong moment’ of the film. Even high school mean-girl Brinda (Maya Rudolph) appears, although she is most definitely not on the guest list.
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As predicted, the party is soon out-of-control, so much so that the future homeowners might only be left with an entirely demolished home, sinkhole and all. There is mass destruction and a plowed-through dry wall. There’s also more token sad comedy bits than probably needed ending this.

A pre-party moment that stands out for me is a flat out hysterical nail salon visit with Hae-Won (Greta Lee), that had me rolling in my seat. Along with John Leguizamo’s character Dave, who’s never quite let go of his high-school party ways, the notable SNL cast members who do their bits are fun. There’s Bobby Moynihan playing an always “on” never-funny aspiring comedian Alex, who accidentally hoovers up some futuristic combo of blow and heroin and literally goes bananas.
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“Sisters” has a hard time stopping once the party has ended, but when it’s moving as an out-of-control party stacked with people worrying about getting old, it knows how to move. When it’s not, the story becomes a bit lackluster.

Grade: C+
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Review Screening: Tuesday, December 15, 2015 ~ Courtesy of Universal Pictures
Nationwide release: Friday, December 18, 2015

REVIEW: “THIS IS WHERE I LEAVE YOU” (2014) Warner Bros.

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I went into this movie knowing it was another one of the genre of ‘family dysfunction’ movies that either go over really well..or not.  With the cast at hand, I really was looking forward to at least a somewhat decent flick and expected some top-notch dark, comedic moments.  And Jane Fonda.. Can I just say how badly I want to look like Jane Fonda when I am her age..hell I want to look like her NOW.. But truly, even with the almost always funny, Jason Bateman & Tina Fey, sadly nothing could save this movie from being completely mediocre.     this is where 2

This whole middle-class.suburban angst type genre movies were all the rage about a decade ago, but it’s tapped itself out as there’s only so many movies about the upper classes and their problems that you can take if they’re not bringing something new to the table. “THIS IS WHERE I LEAVE YOU” doesn’t fit the bill, in that’s it’s an incredibly familiar story we’ve seen done too many times before and it’s become rather boring and lackluster.  The rundown of the film is the ‘heard it so many times before’ story of the kids coming home to reunite in the wake of their father’s death. No one wants to be really be there, and the fighting starts almost immediately.starting with the newly separated son “Judd Altman” (Jason Bateman) having been called home by his sister “Wendy Altman” (Tina Fey), with him having just a few months earlier been cheated-on by his wife, “Quinn” (Abigail Spencer) caught in the act with his boss “Wade Beaufort” (Dax Shepard) no less. but then able to find quirky new love interest who just happened to have a crush on him years back, “Penny Moore” (Rose Byrne) within hours of his return ~ can we just give a big YAWN here already?!  And to make it somewhat even less plausible, though the father was an atheist, everyone is told by family matriarch “Hillary Altman” (Jane Fonda) that they all must stay as he wanted them to ‘sit shiva’, which from what I understand is a Jewish religious custom where the family sits & receives guests for a set amount of days. So you would think at least some comedy would ensue here riiiigghhtt??!!!  *sigh*

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The funeral is an awkward affair to say the least. Judd’s older brother “Paul Altman” (Corey Stoll) has taken to his new role as the head of the family with an overly-controlling bullying attitude and whose wife “Alice” (Kathryn Hahn) is comically desperate to get pregnant. Wendy is busy with her two children, considering that her husband “Barry” (Aaron Lazar) is an inattentive workaholic and makes her want to run back to her past also with the brain-damaged boy next door “Horry Callen” (Timothy Olyphant). The rest of the Altman family ranges from oh soooooo annoying youngest brother “Phillip Altman” (Adam Driver) the bratty black sheep of the family, who comes with his rich older girlfriend in tow “Tracy Sullivan” (Connie Britton) who happens to be a psychiatrist just like his mom..yeah you get the jist where that is going.  One thing we do get plenty of is Fonda’s smothering mother and her grotesque boob job, with the boobs almost so comic that they feel out of place in some somewhat serious moments. They provide easy laughs, but this itself suggests a problem, when they are the funniest thing of the movie.

 

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So, yes there is a surprise at the end of the movie that only ever so slightly redeems it, but at that point, it’s basically too little too late.  Bateman’s performance is decent, Fey’s also, though you don’t get ‘comedy’ from either of them and no one’s is outstanding in the least. By far the most annoying character & portrayal comes from Adam Driver, when I would have liked to have seen say Olyphant’s character of Horry more developed as at least as the bit we got of him, was interesting.  To be honest, this isn’t the worst movie out there right now by far, but I think audiences are expecting more from it than they are going to receive, especially now that we are gearing up for the year-end slew of Oscar contenders sure to come.  This movie will not be one of those contenders.

Grade: C-  (below average)

(See grading scale)

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